le roy magazine is the haphazard result of pure creative freedom
The rules are, there are no rules.
Kelvin Soh, a designer and creative director from New Zealand, is the editor of Le Roy, a zine dedicated to publishing new ideas in art, fashion and visual culture. Upon first glance, Le Roy is a confounding conglomeration of contributors, genres, styles, opinions, fonts, colours and layouts. Le Roy is intriguing because it rejects any notion of a strict brand guideline that could help readers to simply categorise it. Within its pages, raw fashion shoots (featuring DIY designs, luxury pieces and everything in between) sit alongside cartoons, screen plays, photos essays, op eds and fictional stories. For each issue, Kelvin and his small team hand pick contributors — including artists, writers, stylists, photographers, thinkers and people with good style on Instagram — from all over the world to respond to a specific theme. Then they allow them absolute creative freedom in regards to their contributions.
As such, Le Roy is a magazine that examines what the role of a publication should be. Being publishers invested in new perspectives and new points of view, Kelvin and his team tend to break with convention in regards to their editorial approach. They're not as concerned with whether an article is easy to read or has a natural beginning, middle and end as they are with content that resonates with the reader in some way. With Issue 5 in the works, we spoke to Kelvin about the zine scene and doing things in unexpected ways to get exciting results.
i-D: Le Roy seems to be home to a young, progressive kind of outsider art community and yet you work as a professional brand strategist and designer for major clients also. Do those worlds collide?
Kelvin: I did an undergrad in design, a Masters in fine art and I taught art at university for a while, so Le Roy is a reflection of my interest in the intersection of art, fashion, design and critical thinking. My client-based projects help to fund our publishing activities since working from New Zealand requires a certain amount of pragmatism. My clients tend to be interested in culture too so they are sort of aligned anyway. Being relatively free of commercial constraints with Le Roy enables us to preserve a purer or more extreme vision that reflects our own fascinations.
What's the story of how and why Le Roy began?
There was a general desire to see something that I couldn't find anywhere else and to fill this gap ourselves. I also find a lot of great stuff online that generally escapes the radar of mainstream media. There is a rawness and vitality that I want Le Roy to have and I often encourage my writers to explore ideas and styles that they wouldn't get to otherwise. While journalism prioritises reportage and objectivity, the opposite is true with Le Roy since I encourage people to write more indulgently and subjectively. The same applies to stylists who have a unique vision and want to explore ideas free from a commercial agenda; there aren't that many contexts for them to place their work. At Le Roy we're really empowering them to bring their vision to life regardless of whether they're shooting clothes that are out of season, vintage or current. Le Roy is a space for us to freely explore new ideas that we're excited about.
You play with the conventions of typical publishing techniques as well as occasionally turning them on their head. Can you tell us a few of your favourite examples.
In Issue 4 we ran the work of a London based artist named Mat Jenner in the place of ads. He makes works that use existing magazine ads as material so we approached him for a feature in the Lifestyle Issue. We thought it'd be fitting to display his work in the place of where ads would normally go. We also designed Issue 4 using elements like a script typeface to play off the vernacular of classic lifestyle magazines. We also use juxtapositions a lot.
We also like to think about how the art content we run in the magazine can work alongside the exhibition context. While we might review an exhibition and show photos from the exhibition, we try to encourage artists to treat it as an opportunity to extend the concepts from their physical exhibition for the magazine context, to extend their practice and do things in print that they couldn't do in a physical space. We always try to interrogate a magazine's position in relation to culture and play with it.
That's cool. Art book fairs are such a great space for the exchange of ideas and opinions. You've been involved in fairs here and overseas, do you see them as important?
International Art book fairs allow us to connect to a wider, like-minded audience. It's also really interesting to see a trend of bigger artists participating regularly in these fairs who see them as a sort of different critical space to play in. When the value of their work might be somewhat controlled by the galleries, making it out of reach to most, publishing becomes an outlet where they can actually make their work accessible to people.
Who are you excited to be working with on the next issue?
The theme is going to be Fantasy and we're still working on the contributions but I plan to feature the work of Andrew McLeod, who's currently only really known in New Zealand. His work is a great fit. He's really incredible one of those rare people you meet and realise that making art is what they were born to do.
Lastly, what's the story with the Larry Clark photos you've published?
Larry enlisted the help of his old friend Leo Fitzpatrick to curate and manage a few shows featuring stacks of Larry's old prints, which he was selling for $100 each. It was basically Larry's way of saying thanks to the "skate rats and collectors" who frequent his shows but can't afford his work. I met Leo in LA and he put me in touch with Larry who was happy for us to publish a few of the images in Le Roy 3. I was mainly drawn to the candid ones that looked like mistakes or outtakes, like people with their eyes closed or the one where half of Larry's head is chopped off. In keeping with the 'softness' theme of Le Roy 3, I wanted to show Larry's portrait photography but disarmed in some way. I guess I generally like finding great stuff that could fall through the cracks - things that might get lost or ignored. It's a motivation that kind of sums up what Le Roy is about.
Text Briony Wright